A Restrospective Review: Thrice's The Artist In The Ambulance Turns TEN (10) Today

Thrice - The Artist In The Ambulance 

Today (7-22-13) marks the ten year anniversary of the release date for Thrice's genre-bending, explosive, major label debut The Artist In The Ambulance.  I will attempt, in this stream of consciousness (and ironically as I stream the album from my Amazon Cloud Player) review, to elaborate on the key themes explored both lyrically and sonically in the songs while also providing my life perspective as a wide-eyed 19-year-old looking for purpose and meaning in the summer of 2003 that bridged my high school graduation to the start of college life.

Musically, Thrice marries the succint hardcore sound found in The Illusion Of Safety with accessible melody (both in vocals and riffs).  Some of the songs incorporate their metal influences (the outro of "Under A Killing Moon", "Paper Tigers").  Lyrically, Dustin Kensrue explores his own faith by asking questions about objective truth ("Staring At The Sun"), questioning morality ("The Abolition Of Man"), questioning reality ("Silhouette"), and chastising hypocrites ("Cold Cash And Colder Hearts", "The Artist In The Ambulance")

Cold Cash And Colder Hearts

To my knowledge, this may be the one of the very few, if not the only, hard rock song written about Americans being reluctant to put money where their mouth is and give financial aid to impoverished African nations.  The song hits with some fast, heavy chords (great girth to them) and Dustin's wails.

"They are sick. They are poor. They die by the thousands and we look away". BAM - convicted.

Dustin later sings, as speaking for our nation, "Different God. Darker skin. They are just not a burden that we'd like to bear. They are living in sin. They are so many reasons for us not to care."  and "We've learned money matters most". Wow.

I'll never forget hearing that outro for the first time with the windows down driving down the highway as Dustin screams "THEY ARE NO ONE. THEY ARE NOWHERE" and the hush of violins comes over.

Under A Killing Moon

I first heard this song on the Warped Tour '03 Compilation (in June 2003 before any other sounds clips of the new album were released) and was completely stoked off the sound because it sounded so similar to The Illusion Of Safety.  I mistakenly thought that the new record would sound entirely like this.

Not many other songs sound better being blared out of your car stereo with the windows down than the Iron Maiden-esque riffs and screams "WE'LL WATCH THE WITCHES BURN!!! BURN!!!!"

All That's Left

This is the only song on the album that I could never really get into and almost constantly skipped.  I am aware that it was the first single and music video.  I remember seeing the music video on MTV that July and was super stoked to see Thrice on MTV.


Oh snap.  This is where the record really started to get good.  Those chords sucked me right into the chorus and Dustin's gut-wrenching screams.  In the liner notes, I recall Dustin saying that the chorus to this song (and most of "Paper Tigers") caused him to vomit several times in the studio while recording and IT EVEN SOUNDS LIKE HE'S ABOUT TO PUKE. How METAL is that!?

Lyrically, Dustin is trying to discern what is truth in his life and what is just shadows by directly addressing God and how he is forming character in Dustin by saying "Your eyes sifting my soul. They forge diamonds from the coal."  I've always liked the reference to speaking in tongues too.


Stare At The Sun

This was the single that connected with the mainstream and propelled the album to Gold sales.  I like the story of searching for truth that Dustin weaves together in this song and that bass line is still amazing and will stay stuck in your head for days.  I always loved how the guitar riff picks up the bass line pattern in the chorus. It's smart, and almost too complex for a radio rock song, but it worked.

Random fact: According to the extended liner notes, Dustin took the "cracked my teeth on pearls" line from a Simpsons episode. Awesome.

Paper Tigers

Oh my goodness.  The song is still one of my favorites of all time and I wish the band would've played it on the 2012 Farewell Tour.  Back in 2003, I had this song on repeat for about 3 days straight.  That ending where the double bass pedal is pulverized, MAN.  That's just some good metal/hardcore influence right there.

Dustin has improved his screaming so much since.  I am certain it would sound epic with his improved vocals....AND IT DOES (with his post-Vheissu vocals here in 2006)

Hoods On Peregrine

Those cascading drums were always so memorable.
These two lines always did it for me:

"But if knowledge is power, notice is tyranny"

"You think they're selling you truth, truth is they're selling you out"


The Melting Point Of Wax

This song is a clever retelling of the classic Icarus song and also a metaphor for the band's insecurities with being courted by major labels.  As a freshman in college, I remember playing this song on my Minidisc player (remember those??) while sitting and waiting for my lecture in Ancient Greek History to start (because I'm a geek and that's super appropriate).

Fun Fact: "Daedalus" on the "Air" EP of The Alchemy Index is written from the perspective of Icarus' father.

Blood Clots and Black Holes

The classic metal riff that permeates throughout the song is so killer and sets up the lyrical themes of discontent with the war (the invasion of Iraq took place that past March) and a personal war to attack oneself physically (cutting, drugs).   I barely ever keyed in on the lyrics here but let myself get carried away in that riff.

The Artist In The Ambulance

For the kids, like myself, who grew up on this new crop of emo/screamo/hardcore bands that hit in the early 2000s, there was never really that one accessible song or anthem that everyone memorized and wanted to sing together.  THIS is that song that became the anthem for our scene.  It marries the introspective, heart on sleeve lyrics with an extremely arena rock-ish chorus that anyone can relate to and everyone understood.  The universal theme of sitting at death's doorstep and pondering life, our regrets, what changes we (I) can make for the better is something everyone can empathize with.

I've always adored the bridge where Dustin sings:

"Rhetoric can't raise the dead. I'm sick of all this talking when there's no change.
Rhetoric can't raise the dead. I'm sick of empty words.
Let's lead, not follow"

The Abolition Of Man

This take on morality and the contents of C.S. Lewis' book of the same title has been a personal favorite of mine because of changes in song pace and lyrics that deal with the general disposition of man and his heart.  Dustin is generally talking about man's pre-disposition to sin and asking "why?".  He is looking for the meaning of why we have this pit in us, beneath our blood, in our souls.  

"Wake up everyone.  It's not too late to save the remnants of our hearts"
"It's not too late to find the meaning of the pit beneath the blood"

Don't Tell And We Won't Ask

Man, that outro is classic. I think Teppei could play that riff for hours. Perfect ending to the album.

I'm so thankful that the band took what they learned from this record and built on it.  Vheissu (2005) is their masterpiece and I'm hoping and praying that the band returns from their hiatus for a Vheissu tour in 2015.

Pbearadactyl - Debut Show at Walter's Downtown, 7/18/13


Houston's newest band in the metal/hardcore scene played their debut show this past Thursday night with Bury The Crown, Taking on Poseidon, and There Was Madness.  You've probably seen the Pbearadactyl logo on your buddy's shirt or in some random dude's (who's not really in your friend-of-a-friend network - maybe check those privacy settings again!?) Facebook post and you, like all of us, are wondering what they sound like?  I can stand here (sit on this couch) and say that no one physically died of br00talness from the culmination of sheer shock, sound, and terror that is Pbearadactyl, but they DID strike fear in the hearts of men.  Let's take a roll call of the other bands on the bill before diving deeper.

There Was Madness

I honestly can't remember anything about their set except for the drunk guy who tried to start his own mosh pit and shoved another dude at the very moment that this dude was taking a gulp of his beer.  Beer hit the floor and shame hit the ceiling.

Taking on Poseidon

These guys played the generic melding of metalcore breakdowns (2-3 per song, so that the breakdown has no climax effect and means nothing to the song) and melodic choruses.  You've heard it before, and probably hated it.  Their sound was not very cohesive but this moreso due to them playing without their bassist.  They were playing to a track of the recorded bass lines (and also background vocals).

Regardless, if they keep at their craft, they'll improve and shock the world (one breakdown at a time).

They thought they looked and sounded like this:


But they really looked and sounded more like this:

Bury The Crown

These guys were a complete surprise. It's not often that a hardcore punk band plays their music together so tightly and with such cohesiveness that they're locked in to a groove EVERY DANG SONG.  I was caught off guard and loved it. By the end of the first song, I could tell they had IT (that intangible, that feeling that hits you the right way and you just know).  I scurried from the back of the venue to the front of the stage and let the riffage and screams take me away and boy was I glad I did.

Their sound (riffs and vocals) has a sense or urgency, tension, and passion that did me over.  The riffs from the two sparring guitarists erupted as a deluge of distortion and the screaming only heightened the sound.  So good.  I must see them play again soon.

I picked up their EP on their Bandcamp and it's excellent.


The band came to the stage to cheers as an introduction track blared from the speakers.  We were all pumped. And we thought our bodies were ready. But we weren't.  The first sounds to hit my ears were clashing cymbals and some gritty, grimy, guitar riffs. It was ferocious.  It was dirrrrrty.  Those riffs, and that accompanying bass groove, had a Southern rock combined with metal sound and feel to them.  It's not unlike something you'd hear on a Maylene record or certain Norma Jean tracks (Botch-esque) except that these riffs and chords were turned up a notch.  The vocals were a good balance of screaming and short bursts of singing vocals and the pace was a little faster, more akin to a hardcore/punk rock hybrid like The Chariot. The crowd and myself were caught into the groove throughout the set.

The second song opened with a clever voiceover from Jurassic Park (a personal favorite film) before those dreggy riffs hit again but this time the riffs hit slower so you could really feel the depth of the tone.  This song had a nice breakdown that hit unpredictably.  I'm a sucker for unforeseen time signatures.  The gritty set was buttressed with a Black Sabbath cover which the band made their own by playing it HARD and heavy.  The set concluded with a satisfied crowd that was eager for more songs and what is yet to come from the scene's newest band.

Check out the demos on their Soundcloud and like the band's Facebook page.
The next show is August 10th. Come to a show, support the local hardcore/metal scene, and buy a shirt or tank!


Northern Faces - Southern Places

Northern Faces - Southern Places (EP)
Equal Vision Records
Release Date: March, 2013
Listen on Spotify: Just type in "Northern Faces" in the search box. Duh.
Buy on Amazon MP3

One of the great auxiliary benefits of seeing your favorite band play a show is the opportunity to experience new bands/artists in a live setting.  With each set, your anticipation of seeing the headliner is building to an inevitable peak of unadultered joy and adoration.  It is within this emotional context that you're absorbing these new melodies and words you've never heard before.  You're seeing this group of people on stage pour their passion out onto the crowd with unfettered freedom and aural pleasantries.

I just recently had this experience at the Say Anything show this past June.  Besides them and Eisley, I hadn't a clue of the other bands playing at the show. This added a sense of mystique and emotional participation to the moment as described above.  I arrived at Fitzgerald's late and caught only the last song by Northern Faces and that was all it took.  They were playing a song that, in the culmination of instruments and voice, sounded like a setting: a summer evening in the country while sitting on the back porch steps at sundown with an acoustic guitar.  The refrain "Finding hope is all we know." was repeated over gang vocals to finish out the song.  I observed the faces of audience members in the balcony crowd and most everyone had a look of peace and gratefulness on them.   I found out later that night by talking to the guys that the song was the aptly titled "Finding Hope".

Because I enjoyed that song so much, I bought the Southern Places EP (their debut record) from the band members at their merch table.  The guys were easily approachable and grateful that I bought something.  After Say Anything's incredibly crowd-pleasing set (any time Alive With The Glory Of Love is played, I'm satisfied), I set off for home to the nether reaches of the Greater Houston Area Metroplex with Southern Places blasting out of the car speakers.  I was struck by how different the album opener "Under My Skin" was from the one song I heard at the show.  There was assertive bluesy chord structures but juxtaposed with the same carefree guitar tones found on "Finding Hope".

Song number two is where things really get interesting.  "Poor Monlight" is a completely different animal.  A different vocalist than the two previous songs exclaims "Don't see no light at the end of the tunnel." Introduced in the chorus is a pulsating beat driven hard by the rhythm section and just completely crushes with the added piano.  I've never heard anything quite like it in a rock song.

Adding to the diversity of the disc, "You Not Me" starts with cushy vocals and is accentuated by gang chants and soothing steel lap guitars, another feather in the band's talent-filled cap.  The other two songs on the EP continue the band's strive for music experimentation.

In conclusion, if you're looking for the next band that is going to blow up in this scene, and completely due to their talent and willingness to not settle for a style or genre, Northern Faces is your band.  I can't wait to hear a full length record from them.

Top Five Albums of 2011: #5 Foo Fighters - Wasting Light


#5. Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

It’s always a good year when the Foo Fighters release an album, especially when they return with the aggressive yet accessible sound that pushed them past their Nirvana lineage. With original rhythm guitarist (and Nirvana touring guitarist) Pat Smear in tow (and now a THREE guitar juggernaut of ROCK in concert), the Foo dudes embark on a journey through Dave Grohl’s favorite influences – a smattering of punk rock here, some modern rock there, a dabble in classic rock, all in the context of pop sensibility.

With the onslaught that is the album opener “Bridge Burner” and the welcome return of Grohl’s screaming vocals on “White Limo”, the Foo have made their most forceful record since One by One. To contrast, “These Days” is the big melodic rock single we’ve all come to expect on every Foo release. Also present is a muscular, melodic track “Rope” which progresses at a mechanical yet playful rhythm with a big, memorable chorus.

In terms of lyrics, Grohl has written more about experience and perspective and how they relate to life. This is none more present than on “These Days” and the album closer “Walk”. This final track is a charge to get back up and press on no matter what challenge lies ahead.

This is the best and most complete Foo Fighters release since Grammy award winner “There Is Nothing Left To Lose” and retains the melody, aggression, and urgency of fan favorite “The Colour And The Shape”. While no one song holds a candle to the songs found on the aforementioned albums, as a collective there really is no equal.

Fall Mix 2011!!!

Happy Halloween! Enjoy this holiday in celebration of that fact that Jesus Christ conquered death and evil on the cross! AND ENJOY COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF SWEET, SWEET CANDAYYYYY!

Here's the Fall Mix for two thousand and eleven.

track #/ artist/ song

1 / cassino / governor
2 / august burns red / pangaea
3 / thrice / anthology
4 / shad / call waiting
5 / gobble gobble / lawn knives
6 / blindside / withering
7 / five iron frenzy / me oh my
8/ the strokes / under cover of darkness
9/ the chariot / robert rios
10/ yellowcard / for you, and your denial
11/ copeland / chip up (demo)
12/ gungor / crags and clay

unzip the file, import one of the playlist files (.m3u, .txt, or .xml) into your iTunes and rock out.

grace and peace.

2011 Summer Mix

Happy Birthday, Amurrica!!

Here's a Summer Mix to celebrate freedom and hot dogs and professional sports lockouts!!!


1. Reeve Oliver - I Want Burns
2. Less Than Jake - Life Led Out Loud
3. Shad - Rose Garden
4. August Burns (To Death) Red - Salt & Light
5. This Town Needs Guns - Elk
6. Jawbreaker - Boxcar
7. The National - Mistaken For Strangers
8. Foo Fighters - Fraternity
9. Neutral Milk Hotel - In The Aeroplane Over The Sea
10. The Get Up Kids - Ten Minutes
11. Rehasher - Sinking
12. Sufjan Stevens - The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!
13. Blindside - There Must Be Something In The Wind

The Best Songs of 2010!

The Best Songs of 2010

Another year of fabulous music from a full array of artists/bands has gone by! Let's celebrate with a playlist of the best songs of 2010! From mellow to metal, everyone's thirst for delectable ditties will be quenched by this savory mix! Enjoy and tell a friend! :)

1. The Hold Steady - The Weekenders
2. Vampire Weekend - Giving Up The Gun
3. Anberlin - Impossible
4. Lakes - Oh, Lovely
5. The National - Bloodbuzz Ohio
6. Make Do And Mend - Transparent Seas
7. Norma Jean - The Anthem of the Angry Brides
8. Gabe Hascall - Just Dust
9. Arcade Fire - City With No Children
10. Sufjan Stevens - Get Real Get Right
11. The Chariot - The City
12. Underoath - My Deteriorating Incline
13. The Gaslight Anthem - Bring It On
14. Less Than Jake - Channel 3 {Animaniacs theme song}
15. Sundowner - As The Crow Flies

Here is the download link: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=LSZ7YM06

1. Click the link.
2. Wait for the timer to elapse.
3. Click "regular download"
4. A window will pop up - click "save file"
5. Unzip file.
6. Open the .m3u file in iTunes and the playlist should play in order.

Mer is the most beautiful woman in the world. What a gift from God she is! I will never take her person or her love for granted. Oh, Lord strengthen us in Your Word and conform our hearts to Yours. Our relationship is yours.